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20230326 – The Extended Mind




In this book, the author argues that the usual perception of the brain as the sole organ where thinking occurs is incorrect. The author discusses the familiar analogies of a brain as a muscle or computer, which she believes are inaccurate. The author defines her position here:” For one thing: thought happens not only inside the skull but out in the world, too; it’s an act of continuous assembly and reassembly that draws on resources external to the brain. For another: the kinds of materials available to “think with” affect the nature and quality of the thought that can be produced. And last: the capacity to think well—that is, to be intelligent—is not a fixed property of the individual but rather a shifting state that is dependent on access to extra-neural resources and the knowledge of how to use them.” Another essential point that the author makes is that humans now have powerful tools for information processing, such as computers, that increase the processing power of the human mind, making it evident that it becomes an extended entity, most of which resides outside of the human head.



I think that idea of an extended mind is somewhat trivial. It was so long before computers were invented, and it is doubtful that anybody would argue that the concept of the duality of body and mind applies anywhere outside of philosophical discussions. However, the quality of the brain is the most important factor defining the quality of the mind. Based on a lot of research, I am pretty sure that the quality of the individual mind is highly inheritable. Hence, the idea that everybody could achieve anything if a proper environment is provided just by putting in 10,000 hours of practice is just not supported by human experience. However, the mode of application of the mind to a variety of problems is highly dependent on available tools, making the individual ability to use tools effectively much more critical than the ability to do a task without tools. For example, the prodigy capable of doing complex calculations in the head could be easily outclassed by any person with a calculator. This reality makes the whole idea of dividing people into more and less intelligent somewhat outdated. Instead, the division should be between individuals capable of achieving results in some specific area and those who cannot do it. The significant thing is that since just about any area of activity is complex and tools dependent, it is not possible to design tests that would perfectly predict individual performance. So, the best way would be to stop trying select people upfront and provide everybody with resources and access to the ability to act. Based on these actions’ results, only after that decide who should get the extended opportunity.


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